Over the past 20 years, I have worked with many parents whose little ones have been having difficulty sleeping at night. During this time, I have identified at least six major baby sleep mistakes and misunderstandings most parents make.
The good news is that these mistakes, once you are aware that you're making them, can be turned around leading to long term good sleeping habits for your little one.
I was lucky when my own three little ones came along. My awareness and knowledge helped my children to develop the foundations for long term good sleep habits. By sharing these common sleep mistakes, I hope you too can help your little one develop good long term sleep habits.
The 6 common sleep mistakes parents make:
Assuming that babies sleep through the night
This is a common assumption that many parents believe, and then when their little bundle doesn't follow suit, they think there is something wrong.
Babies sleep for the duration of what is known as a sleep cycle. A sleep cycle normally lasts approximately 45 minutes. After the sleep cycle, your baby will naturally wake up and usually drift off to sleep again for the next sleep cycle. At about six months, your baby will begin to link the sleep cycles together.
The child's sleep room is too stimulating
Babies and toddlers are very prone to becoming over-stimulated very quickly. This over-stimulation makes it more difficult for your baby / toddler to get to sleep.
Be aware of those hanging mobiles in the cot with their bright lights and sounds. These can actually be more distracting for your little one, rather than aiding their sleep.
Your little one's sleep space should be free of all toys, because when your little one wakes, or is going to bed, guess what? They will want to play with those toys!
Thinking that if your baby goes to bed later, that they will sleep for longer
This one is a real misconception. A late bedtime means your little one will take longer to get to sleep and normally leads to frequent wakening during the night.
Your little one may not appear tired, they might be over active in the late evenings, but this is in fact a real sign of over-tiredness. When your little one reaches this point, it is going to be very difficult to get them settled for bed with the result of a really poor night's sleep.
Inconsistent bed time routines
A bedtime routine helps your little one prepare their little body for wind down and eventual sleep. A consistent bed time routine, which might include an activity such as massage or a story, helps your little one to know what is coming next, i.e. bed. With consistency, they will also learn to anticipate, so help your little one to develop sleep expectations associated with bedtime routine.
Consistency also helps your child to develop the ability to feel secure, which is important for emotional regulation. A bedtime routine does not need to be long in duration. In fact, if your baby is already tired, a long drawn out bedtime routine can contribute to over-tiredness. Try to keep your bedtime routine short in duration, this will also make it easier to stick to.
Thinking that day time naps prevent night time sleep
Up to the age of four, your child will benefit from sleep / rest time during the day. This nap time is essential to prevent your little one's brain becoming over tired. A small child's brain can tolerate only a limited duration of activity before it needs some rest. If your little one is having difficulty sleeping at night, introduce nap time during the day.
Not acknowledging that a child must be developmentally ready to be able to settle into a sleep routine
Your little one has to be developmentally able and ready to sleep before you can expect them to sleep during the night. This unnatural expectation can put parents under huge pressure.
If your little one is not developmentally ready or doesn't have the developmental pre-requisites to sleep during the night, no amount of forced routines will result in them sleeping. This level of expectation is unfair on parents. Often, the difficulty for parents is that there is so much sleep advice available, it is hard to know which advice to follow.
Fiona O’Farrell."Here Are The 6 Major Baby Sleep Mistakes That Parents Make."